Quantum computing -- really everything that delves into quantum-level physics -- is a trippy, mind-melting thing to get a grasp of. But the world of computing could find practical use for the "quantum realm" outside of the world of imaginative sci-fi superhero entertainment.
Nvidia (NVDA 4.00%) has been dabbling with quantum computing for a while, and recently announced a new hybrid quantum computing platform. This is (likely) a very long-term investment, one that may not yield much in the way of financial results, but nonetheless an important project for Nvidia.
Bits, qubits, and merging the classical with the very new
Nvidia's new offering is called QODA, which stands for Quantum-Optimized Device Architecture. Basically, QODA allows a developer to take an existing application and apply quantum computing to it to accelerate development and problem-solving capabilities. It's essentially a hybrid computing model that attempts to merge classical computing (which uses semiconductors like GPUs or CPUs) with new cutting-edge QPUs (quantum computing units).
Today, a handful of quantum computing systems are available for use by researchers and developers via a cloud network. For example, a developer might use Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure cloud business to access a quantum computer via an internet connection. But at this point, quantum computers aren't reliable enough for widespread commercial use. That's where Nvidia's QODA comes in.
The binary bit is the most basic unit of information in classical computing. It's the very fabric on which all applications are built -- including the presentation of this very article you are reading on your device right now. Classical computing tech (semiconductors and the applications they run) is well-known and widespread in use. In contrast, the qubit (which stands for quantum bit) is the basic unit of information in quantum computing. The qubit greatly accelerates computational speed, but it requires new hardware (QPUs, sometimes called quantum chips), and the science is still being worked on to reduce errors and make the hardware more affordable.
QODA merges classical and quantum computing applications. What's the benefit of that? In complex problems where there are millions, billions, even trillions of permutations, classical computing isn't efficient enough to get the job done (think developing a new substance at the atomic level, or trying to predict which direction the stock market will go next). If a developer is working on an app, they could tap QODA to accelerate it with quantum computing. Or if a quantum computing developer needs some help refining work or developing new quantum chips, they can use Nvidia's new service to apply some high-end tried-and-true classical computing to the mix.
Is quantum computing the right future-proofing move?
It's good to see Nvidia putting a little money to work in the quantum computing department. Other tech giants are doing the same, and a number of small start-ups have emerged in the last couple years developing new quantum chips and services. Nvidia isn't a quantum computing company, but it's important to keep pace with new developments like this -- just in case quantum computing eventually takes off like some think it might.
But why bother at all? Right now, Nvidia is one of the most popular and sexy stocks among growth investors, as its GPUs are being put to use in cloud computing to accelerate the development of AI and other high-performance computing needs. But someday that may not be the case anymore for Nvidia. Its tech will mature, growth will slow, and new tech developments will emerge. If Nvidia wants to stay relevant for many decades -- like Microsoft or an Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) -- it needs to future-proof its business by investing in ultra long-term moonshot projects like its QODA quantum computing platform.
For now, and for the foreseeable future, Nvidia's advanced classical computing hardware and software will be top secular growth trends, so no need to get too excited about quantum services turning into needle-moving services for the business anytime soon.